Sea surface height determination in the Arctic Ocean from ERS altimetry

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Abstract

[1] Accurate sea surface height measurements have been extracted from ERS altimeter data in sea ice–covered regions for the first time. The data have been used to construct a mean sea surface of the Arctic Ocean between the latitudes of 60°N and 81.5°N based on 4 years of ERS-2 data. An RMS value for the crossover differences of mean sea surface profiles of 4.2 cm was observed in the ice-covered Canada Basin, compared with 3.8 cm in the ice-free Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian Seas. Comparisons are made with an existing global mean sea surface (OSUMSS95), highlighting significant differences between the two surfaces in permanently ice-covered seas. In addition, we present the first altimeter-derived sea surface height variability map of the Arctic Ocean. Comparisons with a high-resolution coupled ocean–sea ice general circulation model reveal a good qualitative agreement in the spatial distribution of variability. Quantitatively, we found that the observed variability was on average a factor of 3–4 greater than model predictions.

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